You can survive tough economic times without sacrificing good nutrition. Try these simple strategies for finding healthy bargains on your next grocery jaunt:
1) Meat can drive up any grocery bill, so start looking for alternatives.
- Why not opt for one or two bean-based, meatless meals each week? Simply substitute kidney, pinto or other beans for meat or poultry in casseroles or stews. Remember -- beans contain protein, fiber and folate (a B vitamin) and they’re fat-free.
- You may find price reductions on lean meat and poultry whose sell-by dates are coming up. The USDA says it’s safe to cook and eat (or freeze) up to two days after the “sell-by” date.
- Limiting red meat (beef, pork and lamb) to less than 18 ounces a week is advised for lower cancer risk anyway. Fresh salmon has healthful omega 3 fats, but so does less costly canned wild salmon.
2) Buying large quantities of high-calorie soft drinks can pinch your wallet, supply zero nutrition, and add unwanted pounds, so try something else:
- Turn to tap water – filtered, if you prefer -- which is less expensive than bottled water. Flavor your water with a splash of juice or slice of lemon; or make some fresh, unsweetened iced tea, for a dose of cancer-fighting polyphenols.
- “Fruit drinks” may cost less than 100 percent juice, but they have little or no real juice. Frozen juice concentrate can be less expensive than refrigerated 100 percent juice; a 6-ounce serving a day works to limit cost and calories.
3) Avoid pricey convenience foods like mixes – they often cost extra while providing less nutrition. Many pre-seasoned rice and pasta mixes, for example, cost three to four times more per serving, tend to be high in sodium, and use refined grains instead of more nutritious whole grains.
- Instead, buy quick-cooking brown rice or whole grain pasta and add your own herbs.
4) Oatmeal is a good example of a low-cost, healthy breakfast cereal. But you pay a premium for those pre-packaged, individual serving sized packets.
- If you’re looking for oatmeal on-the-go, buy a container of quick-cooking oatmeal and measure out half-cup servings into small, resealable plastic bags for half the cost.
5) Finally, when it comes to vegetables and fruits, people often say they cost too much to get the 5 servings a day recommended for good health and lower cancer risk. Here’s some tips.
- You save money when you buy whatever’s in season.
- Don’t overlook inexpensive staples like carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, onions and bananas.
- Check for lower prices on frozen and canned produce and look for bargains at farmers' markets.
6) Beware of coupons and two-for-one pricing for unhealthy snacks and processed foods. Coupons may be for brands that are more expensive anyway; store-brand items are often cheaper choices.
7) Prepare smaller portions to make your groceries go further. You may be surprised by how well your appetite is satisfied with less.
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- As always, using leftovers the next day can also help stretch your food budget.